Utility companies can be sued for violating safe drinking water standards, the California Supreme Court unanimously decided on Monday. The decision is significant because it allows thousands of victims of polluted water to seek financial compensation from the private and public utilities that pipe tap water into homes; in the past, victims mostly targeted the industries responsible for contaminating the water. In the case heard by the court, some 2,500 people living near a Superfund site in Southern California’s San Gabriel Valley argued that they became sick — in some cases with cancer — after drinking water containing toxic chemicals. In addition to suing industrial polluters, the residents went after utilities, a first for the state of California. A lawyer for the plaintiffs said he hoped the decision would force utilities to be more concerned with the quality of the water they sell.